The pair of Airbus A380s belonging to Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) are spending most of their time on the ground. The two planes should be flying the normally popular sector between Japan and Hawaii. But that route has been at a standstill for over 12 months.
Travel between Japan and Hawaii at a standstill
All Nippon Airways has two A380s with another on the way. The planes are well known for their highly distinctive paint jobs. JA381A features a blue sea turtle livery. JA382A features an emerald green sea turtle livery. The yet to arrive JA383A has an orange sea turtle livery.
ANA specifically purchased the A380s to fly between Japan and Hawaii. Before the travel downturn, Japan was Hawaii’s biggest source of international visitors. In 2019, Hawaii welcomed 1,576,205 visitors from Japan. 1,360,644 of those arrivals traveled for leisure reasons – just the type of passenger to fill ANA’s big A380s.
Until the travel downturn, eight airlines flew nonstop between Hawaii and Japan. Japan Airlines was the number one operator on the sector. In its wake were Hawaiian Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and Delta Air Lines.
But ANA was substantially ramping up its presence on the sector. The first ANA A380, JA381A, only commenced flying in May 2019. The second A380, JA382A, began flying in June. With 520 seats on each of its ten weekly A380 services to Honolulu, All Nippon Airways added 160,000 seats on the Tokyo – Honolulu route in 2019. There were plans to go double daily to Honolulu with the A380s.
Those flights ended less than a year later amid the global travel downturn and border closures. Japanese outbound tourism nosedived. All Nippon Airways parked its two A380s and deferred delivery of the third A380.
A slow routine of crew certification and scenic flights for ANA’s A380s
A report by Tadayuki Yoshikawa in Japan’s Aviation Wire on Monday notes there has not been much A380 activity at ANA since then. According to flight tracking site RadarBox.com, JA382A has operated just seven flights this year. Five of those flights were circuits above Tokyo, with the plane taking off and landing at Narita. The aircraft would normally spend a couple of hours airborne.
There was also a return flight to Xiamen in China by JA382A. The mega jumbo operated flight NH9411 down to Xiamen on March 30, returning to Narita on April 28 as NH9412. Xiamen is where ANA sends its A380s for C-checks and other heavy maintenance.
The other All Nippon Airways A380, JA381A, has been slightly busier lately. After staying on the ground for January and February, JA381A went down to Xiamen for maintenance over March. Since arriving back, the A380 has operated 13 flights, the most recent on Sunday.
Many of those flights were circuits over Tokyo, but others were runs to cities such as Osaka and Tokoname for a night or two. The likely reason for many of these flights is to keep crews certified and the plane in good working order. But some of the flights are scenic flights, which according to the Aviation Wire report, is proving popular with grounded Japanese punters, and ANA continues to operate. What the All Nippon Airways A380s are not doing is operating regularly scheduled flights carrying passengers.
Meanwhile, Airbus has the third ANA A380 ready to fly. JA383A has been paid for, but All Nippon Airways has pushed back delivery a couple of times. The airline now plans to take delivery in October. But that’s contingent on several factors, not least some international travel between Japan and Hawaii resuming. However, that is highly uncertain in the short term, and there is no guarantee JA383A will land in Tokyo this year.